Sheffield is today launching a city-wide conversation about its ambitious plans to reduce air pollution with a new clean air zone.

People can have their say in a new online consultation to understand the impacts of a clean air zone and there will be a series of events to ensure that all views have been taken into account as the eight-week process continues.

The consultation is available at www.sheffield.gov.uk/cleanair

The Clean Air Zone plans, established after the government ordered major cities across the UK to improve air quality, encourages the most polluting vehicles to upgrade to electric, hybrid or cleaner engines. It is set to be launched in 2021.

Sheffield City Council is seeking £50million of government support to help drivers upgrade their vehicles and the council wants to work with taxi and van drivers, as well as every other fleet of vehicle affected, to encourage this.

The oldest and most polluting taxis, buses, vans, coaches and Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) will be affected by the pollution charge, with private cars currently exempt. Under plans now being put forward, there will be a pollution charge for driving into Sheffield’s proposed Clean Air Zone. Our proposals are aimed at 20 per cent of the vehicles in the city but cause 50 per cent of the harmful nitrogen dioxide emissions.

Cllr Bob Johnson, Cabinet Member for Planning and Development at Sheffield City Council, said:

“This is the start of a vitally important conversation for the city and we want everyone to have their say on the clean air zone and the support that is available. We know air pollution damages the health of us all, especially the very young and the very old, but we need to balance this with how we can support drivers with the cost of reducing their emissions.

“The facts are clear, taxi drivers, van drivers and other motorists are among the most at risk from breathing in dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide and we want to protect them and everyone else who lives in our fantastic city. We accept these are difficult conversations but they need to happen so we can improve our air quality.”

Sheffield, along with Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham, has illegal levels of air pollution.

In Sheffield alone this contributes to 500 deaths a year and recent evidence has shown that exposure to Nitrogen Dioxide has a lasting impact on development of children’s lungs. Living in the worst areas for air pollution carries the same health risks as passive smoking.

Sheffield has been instructed by Government to reduce air pollution as fast as possible and the plans unveiled today focus on cleaning the vehicles that pollute the most. Taxis, vans, HGVs, buses and coaches are 20 per cent of the vehicles in the city centre, but cause 50 per cent of the harmful nitrogen dioxide emissions.

To avoid paying the pollution charge, taxis will need to be ultra-low emission vehicles – either electric, petrol-hybrid, hydrogen or liquid petroleum gas powered. Buses, coaches, vans and HGVs will need to be electric or the cleanest standard of diesel engine.

Although the proposed clean air zone would see polluting vehicles charged when they are in or travelling around the city centre, this will lead to cleaner air outside of the city as well as vehicles using the road network will be cleaner and greener.

To help support local taxi drivers and businesses who rely on vans, the £50million ask of central government includes significant support in the form of grants for converting existing vehicles and loans for the purchase of new vehicles. We want as many people as possible to respond to the consultation to help us to finalise our plans.

The council is already working on a series of climate emergency measures including the retrofitting of the vast majority of the city’s bus fleet and introducing fines for people who leave their engines running outside the school gates.

The consultation is now open. You can join in the clean air conversation at www.sheffield.gov.uk/cleanair